Germany Releases Berlin Attack Suspect as ISIS Claims Involvement
BERLIN — German officials Tuesday released the chief suspect in the gruesome terrorist attack against a Christmas market in Berlin, launching a nationwide search for an attacker that the Islamic State claimed had acted on the terror group’s behalf.
Early in the day, the authorities announced that they had the arrested a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker who arrived in Germany last December as a suspect. By evening, the federal prosecutor said the man had been released because there was no proof linking him to the crime.
That meant the culprit was still on the run and far-right politicians wasted no time in pinning responsibility for the deaths on Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Islamic State released a statement Tuesday through its Amaq news agency describing the driver of the truck as “a soldier” who had answered the call to wage attacks against countries fighting the group. But it offered no other details about the driver’s identity or whether he had directly interacted with the group or was just sympathetic to it.
The attack in Berlin, which killed 12 people and wounded many others, immediately heightened the sense of political vulnerability around Merkel, a linchpin of European unity. And it came at a precarious time of concern about Russian meddling and a populist backlash over her decision to open German borders to nearly a million migrants and refugees in 2015.
Her political opposition issued a surprisingly speedy and stinging reproach. The Berlin victims were labeled “Merkel’s dead” by Marcus Pretzell, leader of the Alternative for Germany party in the country’s most populous state, North Rhine Westphalia. Frauke Petry, the party leader, said bluntly, “Germany is no longer safe.”
她的政敌以惊人的反应速度对她进行了猛烈指责。德国另类选择党(Alternative for Germany)在该国人口最多的州——北莱茵-威斯特伐利亚州的领袖马库斯·普雷泽尔(Marcus Pretzell)称，柏林事件的受害者是“默克尔的冤魂”。该党领导人弗劳克·佩特(Frauke Petry)直指“德国已不再安全”。
Daniela Schwarzer, leader of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said that the statements offered a taste of the bitter debate to come in 2017.
“They were very quick to link this directly to Merkel, and they said horrific things, blaming her for the deaths,” Schwarzer said.
“That gives us a sense of what is coming in the electoral campaign,” she said, adding that after an especially nasty presidential campaign in the United States, German politicians, too, may abandon traditional decorum.